Encapsulating Freedom

President Obama’s Second Inaugural Speech appeared to liberate the President from the bounds of conservative extortion, and allow him to explore the possibilities of liberal ideology. For four long years, liberals like me have watched and waited, frustrated with the quagmire into which Congress has plunged itself.

Every piece of legislation seems to drag through the legislative process at a less than glacial speed, with conservatives predictably obstructing anything of value that crosses their desks. In the Senate, every bill is filibustered by Republicans, for no reason other than to retard and stall the process.

In the House of Representatives, bills are proposed that will never pass the veto of the President. Nothing is done in this, the most indifferent Congress in history, and for no good reason other than to prevent any substantive legislation from passing.

One Australian stock trader described governance as a circus, and it is, a three ringed circus in which the performers perform no high flights of courage, or comic relief, they are instead the animals trained only to walk in slow circles, or stand on their hind legs on command. A troop of lower primates would do a superior job.

In the Senate, Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader had a single chance to change the rules of the Senate to reform the filibuster, which allows any senator to stop any bill from continuing to full debate in the chamber, without saying who he is.

Reid failed in this singular task, choosing instead to retain the secret filibuster, ensuring that for at least another two years, nothing substantive will pass that chamber. Considering that he is a Democrat, this is a sword in the ribs to all liberals, who actually want to get legislation through the Senate. How Obama is going to be able to pass his agenda through this Congress remains to be seen.

Consider some of the ideas that Obama proposed in his speech during his inauguration, that will now not pass the Senate, and has little chance of passing the House. It pains me to say, but why did so many Democrats vote for their representatives if those senators and congressmen are going to spend the next two years doing nothing?

The president challenged the country to forge ahead on technology that can unlock the promise of green energy, solar, wind, geothermal and other renewables. He was clear that we should not allow other nations to make the great strides in these technologies, leaving us behind. We need to tackle these technological difficulties and ensure that we are in the forefront of innovation.

Obama was clear that we need to preserve our natural resources, the rivers and streams, the oceans, forests and farmland. This is the legacy that we need to pass on to our children’s children, not a planetary wasteland, good only for goats.

Congress is so busy acting the goat on this issue, that few people believe that they will be capable of tackling the most important problem in any human lifetime. The President mentioned that “this planet was commanded to our care by God”. If that is so, why are we so ready to destroy it? Is this how we treat a world entrusted to us by our Creator?

On war, the president said that in essence, ensuring our security does not require that we indulge in an endless series of wars. How can we ensure our economic security when we expend our national treasure in military adventurism, wasting huge sums in foreign lands for little gain. While there are some corporations that may gain from these actions, the people of this nation gain nothing, and their security is not enhanced in the least.

There is no threat on the scale of Nazi Germany, or Imperial Japan. The Soviet Union no longer threatens to infiltrate nations to our south. They are all defeated. There is no current reason for us to expend the resources of the Treasury on these irresponsible policies.

There are threats to peace, including the Chinese military build up, and Islāmic extremism in North Africa and the Middle East, but none of these are an overbearing threat. Obama indicated that we need to use diplomatic means to resolve our differences with other nations and not rush into more expensive wars that do nothing more than add to the national debt.

The hawks in the Republican Party would love to wage war on Iran, one of the “Axis of Evil”, ostensibly in support of Israel, but far more importantly, to secure Iran’s oil wealth for large oil companies. Given the right circumstances, they will succeed.

In the meantime, hopefully Obama can persuade the Iranian leadership that it would be far better to cooperate than risk military conflict. The wildcard remains Israel, a nation that appears, under Netanyahu, bent on military action against Iran, which would drag the US into yet another regional conflict. It is better that we at least attempt to negotiate with Iran than risk another war.

It is rather ironic that Obama wants the U.S. to support democracy around the globe, and yet democracy in this country is teetering on the edge of irrelevance. When one party refuses to coöperate and compromise, the very underpinnings of democracy are destroyed.

Congress forces this country into crisis after crisis, costing tens of billions in lost investment earnings, jobs and economic growth. Republicans just cannot stand that Democrats won the elections and should be able to push their agenda forward.

It is equally ironic that the President spoke of extending freedom to other people’s, and yet, right here, people are not free, people go hungry, people lack basic healthcare, jobs, education. We cannot lecture the rest of the world when our own nation suffers those same restraints.

The president spoke of being “a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice”. These are noble sentiments, and if our democracy were fully functional, something we could do for other nations, but we need to ensure those same things here.

Women, children, gays, the poor and ill-educated are all marginalized in one way or another, and these are things that we should tackle here. That is not to say that we should not help others, but we must also concentrate on those at home.

Tolerance is something that should be taught to conservatives before we teach them to the world. Am I being intolerant towards conservatives by saying this? I don’t believe so. I want conservatives to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else in this country, but no more. They have no right to set themselves apart from others.

What surprised me about Obama’s speech, other than that his liberal credentials are at last manifesting themselves, was the ease with which he introduced Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall. Selma refers to the three marches that marked the peak of the Civil Rights era; Seneca Falls refers to the convention that marked the start of the women’s rights movement; and Stonewall, was the turning point in the gay rights movement.

In one sentence the President pointed out the seminal events that highlighted the struggle for civil liberties, something no President has ever had the courage to do. No President has ever made mention of gay people during an inaugural address. Conservatives, quite naturally, were outraged that he had the temerity to introduce this in a Presidential address.

Obama’s talk of the people who left footprints on the Mall to listen to a King was a poignant reminder, on this Martin Luther King Day, of the sacrifices made by so many people to bring freedom to so many.

He mentioned equal pay for women, for respect for everyone, whether they are gay or not, under the law. He again reiterated his belief that every eligible citizen be given the right to vote without being forced to stand in lines for up to eight hours.

The presidents mention of the immigrants that still see this nation as a source of possibility struck a particular chord with me, given my immigrant root. It is imperative that immigrants be extended the same courtesy that generations f immigrants have had throughout this countries history.

Each group of immigrants has struggled to make a success, but ultimately have joined in this nations success. Those that come wanting only a better life and a chance to support themselves and their families should be given that opportunity.

Obama made clear that we cannot solve all the debates about governments role in our lives, but we must act on the very real challenges that face our nation today. Not to do so demonstrates an ineptitude and sloth that does nothing to advance the cause of freedom. We need to get past the objectionable actions of Congress and resolve those issues.

It is a long time since I last heard a speech as powerful as that the President made. It brings hope to millions of supporters, and, I believe people around the world, that the United States can fulfill its role as a great nation and not vanish into the mists of forgotten civilisations. Whether he will be able to fulfill even a small portion of his vision is yet to be seen, but we can only strive for that end.

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